SunOpta focuses on finding, processing and packaging food products that are natural and certified organic, which are then sold in stores like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. The publicly traded organic food processing company is based in Toronto, but has most of its facilities in the United States. While the agency is not certifying that all of SunOpta’s ingredients are GMO-free, it does show that the corn and soy being processed in its plant in Hope, Minn., are not genetically altered varieties. The verification applies only to the system used at SunOpta’s plant in Minnesota.
Labeling foods to indicate whether they contain ingredients from genetically modified crops has become an important issue in recent years. Consumers concerned about the effects of gene manipulation in the foods that they eat have been pressuring companies for labels on products that contain GMO ingredients. Food, beverage, and biotechnology companies have spent over $100 million over the last few years to fight such measures. No scientific studies have found harmful effects from eating GMO items, but many believe that more research is needed before these food items can be confidently deemed safe for consumption.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted in a monthly email obtained by The Associated Press that a large food company approached the agency about get approval for its system of vetting crops for genetic alteration, but declined to disclose the name of the company making the request. SunOpta came forward to identify itself to The New York Times and provided the publication with a photo of the new label. Mr. Vilsack said in his announcement, “This is the first non-GMO/GE claim verified through U.S.D.A. It will be announced soon, and other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”